California is between a rock and a hard place on education. Meaning, between a federal law that is impossible to comply with and a union that refuses to have the results of its members’ work taken into account as one criterion for evaluation. That dilemma was resolved in the worst possible way.
As a consequence, the poorest schools that educate children who are learning English will be the ones impacted when they have no choice but to divert economic resources to other purposes that should not be a priority, especially in this time of budget cuts. The results must not be surprising.
California is one of the few states that have not received federal authorization to waive the requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) educational law.
The Obama administration has recognized the serious deficiencies of this law and supports a change. Meanwhile, until Congress establishes new legislation that is more adequate, the government is granting exceptions to states in exchange for them presenting rigorous state educational plans. One of the requirements is to consider student performance among the factors used to evaluate teachers.
Last week, it became known that California’s request was rejected because it did not include the evaluations opposed by the unions.
The official argument of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to justify his action is identical to what the unions previously said: the cost of the change is higher than the federal funding to be received.
The superintendent made it understood that it is preferable to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in the most vulnerable areas of state education, than the thousands of millions it would cost to implement changes to obtain the waiver. In this case, the detailed financial cost of not complying with the federal law is known, but what is not known are what they say meeting the waiver criteria would cost, somewhere between $2 and $2.7 billion. An actual breakdown would be good to have.
There are 47 states that have requested a waiver from NCLB; 34 already obtained it, including Illinois and New York, along with the District of Columbia, while others are still expecting the results.
Is it possible that California school authorities are shrewder than the rest of the country when it comes to not losing money?
And what about the education for the students, of which there has not been much talk?
The other official explanation to continue with its own system is that California has a tradition of marching to its own beat. We are concerned that in this case the teachers’ unions, with their limited self-interest, are the ones setting that beat.